Life on the Road: A Trucker’s Story
Every job has its up and downs, and some have a lot of twists and turns. Have you ever wondered what life as a trucker is like?
The Job Description
On paper, a new trucker is signing up for a travel plan that could take them around town or across the continent. Long-haul truckers signup for a contract that could keep them on the road for months at a time enjoying the drive, the sights, and the independence that comes along with the job. In general, trucking companies look for these characteristics in a long-haul trucker:
- Astounding driving skills – For obvious reasons.
- Endurance – You’re working long hours, mostly doing one thing: driving.
- Attentiveness – The road might seem predictable, but tuning out isn’t an option when safety is the number one priority.
- Independence – Life on the road means taking care of yourself, and stepping up when something goes wrong.
- Level-Headedness – You need a strong levelness about you in order to keep your sanity. Driving all the time can be taxing both mentally and physically.
- Mechanical Skills – When a problem occurs, very rarely does it happen near an auto shop. You need to be able to fix some things on your own.
- Timeliness – When the shipment arrives at its destination, it needs to be on time. The ability to meet deadlines is essential to your success.
Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat
As a trucker, you can own your own rig to give yourself a bit more freedom. In doing so, you’re allowed to bring some travel buddies along with you. Many truckers have a dog that they take on the road to keep them company in their otherwise solitary travels. That’s what Jonathan does, along with 40% of all truckers.
While Jonathan owns his own rig–that would be the front-half of the truck, with the cabin–his contracting company provides him with the trailers and, obviously, the goods that he needs to get from Point A to Point B. His job takes him all across the United States and Canada, taking shipments from factories and warehouses to other factories and warehouses. He stays on the road for weeks at a time with his dog, Juniper, by his side.
By owning and operating his own truck like more than 350,000 truckers, Jonathan makes substantially more. He gets paid by the mile at an average of $1.10, this is great compared to the rates that company employees receive at around $0.40 per mile. However, owning his own rig also makes him responsible for all maintenance and upkeep costs, which as you’ll see, can get expensive and time-consuming.
In case you were wondering, he also has to pay for fuel. Luckily, his truck gets about 6 to 7 miles per gallon, but he only has to stop around 4 times a day because his truck has two 150-gallon fuel tanks (and you think it’s expensive to fill up your car!). If you’re trying to do the math, Jonathan clocks in an impressive 600 to 700 miles each and every day he’s driving.
Out on the road, the biggest problem Jonathan has ever faced was when his fuel gelled up. When he bought gas down south, it was meant to withstand the freezing temperatures of his destination in Canada. At minus 50 degrees, he was forced to call a tow truck because the previously liquid fuel basically turned into Jell-O. He and Juniper were able to keep warm long enough for the tow truck to arrive, but that wasn’t the case in another instance.
When he got stranded in North Dakota because of more minor, albeit still time-consuming, truck troubles, Jonathan was forced to call the police so that they could rescue him and take him to a motel where his dog & him wouldn’t freeze while waiting for repairs.
ASK A TRUCKER
Long-haul or local?
“Local drivers get paid by the hour whereas long-haul truckers get paid by the mile. I prefer long-haul because I can make a lot more, and I’m used to being on the road at this point. It’s a lifestyle you adapt to after sometime, and when I’m on break, it can just feel odd. Juniper seems confused too when we’re in one place for a while. She likes being on the road.”
How long can you drive?
“In the USA, I’m limited to 11 hours each day. I have to take a certain number of breaks within a 14-hour working day as well. In Canada, I have a 16-hour working day and I can drive 13 hours straight, if I want.
“The USA also limits me to up to 70 hours in an 8-day period while Canada has a limit of 70 hours in a 7-day period. It’s harder to get as many miles in when I’m in the states.”
How many hours do you usually drive?
“If I have a tight deadline, I might max out the requirements. Otherwise, I try to aim for 9 to 10 hours each day. I usually hit about 12,000 miles each month.”
What are truck stops like?
“Most people keep to themselves but they are very clean, unlike what most people think. I can usually find people to talk to in the lounge if I want to. But, I tend to keep to myself unless I’ve been on the road for a month or more.”
Do you stay at hotels often?
“If I take a break, I might book a hotel but I have to find one that accepts dogs. My truck has a sleeper cabin, so there’s plenty of room for me to sleep comfortably in there and I actually prefer that normally. I only pay for a hotel if I’m going to be off the road for a few days, or if my truck is in the repair shop.”
Do you have a lot of friends?
“I find that it’s hard to keep up with people who aren’t truckers because I’m gone so often. All of my friends are truckers as well, so they understand the lifestyle. Some of them talk on the phone thousands of minutes a month, but I prefer to wait until I can see them in person or maybe check up on them using social media. I’m not a phone person so I don’t even chat on the CB radio that often.”
Have you had any close calls?
“Many times, especially during winter. Everything in Canada gets icy and covered in snow so the road conditions get very dangerous. Similar things happen in the states that make driving very difficult. It’s part of the job, but I’ll never get used to it.”
What do you do when conditions are bad?
“It depends on how ‘bad’ they are and where I am. There might not be a place to pull off when I’m doing mountain driving, which is often. I try to keep an eye on the weather so that I don’t get caught in a situation like that though. When there’s a whiteout, which is common in Canada, I’m forced to pull off because visibility is literally zero.”
Understanding the Facts
Like every career, being a long-haul trucker has both perks and downsides. The dangerous driving conditions are one of the biggest obstacles. Other negatives? All the hours you spend on the road, but that’s only a downside if you are a very social person who requires regular interaction. If that’s you, being a long-haul trucker probably isn’t a good career choice. But, if you meet the characteristics of a good trucker that we covered at the start, most the things people see as negatives to the job really aren’t downsides at all.
No matter how much of a “loner” you are, though, you’ll still need to overcome the day-in and day-out driving, which can make you tired both physically and mentally. The tiredness you feel as a result of driving long hours is different from the tiredness you’d feel after a long run. Many truckers describe it as a restless tired because, while their eyes and mind might be sleep, and their back might be sore, they haven’t expended much physical energy.
To overcome that, many truckers pull off and try to get walks in. To help with their sanity, they might also stop off at sightseeing locations to take in the beauty that many truckers simply drive right past. As long as you meet your deadline, it’s permitted. And, if you’re travelling with a dog, they’ll like it too.
This happens to be one of the perks of trucking: Getting to see what so many people never will. You’ll get to see some incredible views of gorgeous mountains, lakes, and even coastal highways that many people only dream of. In that way, you can think of long-haul trucking as a paid road trip.
In all, more than 3.5 million Americans have chosen long-haul trucking as their career, and statistics show that many more intend to join the ranks in the coming years as the industry continues to grow at substantial rates. With North America now shipping more freight than ever before, long-haul trucking positions are expected to continue to open up.
While there are both some perks and downsides to consider, given the right personality and the right attitude, millions of people have found that trucking is a sustainable and rewarding career that allows them to stay on the road, enjoy their independence, and see the continent with their own eyes.
These benefits are what encourage countless people to pursue a career in the trucking industry each year, and while the downsides cause a few people to choose something else, the undeniable perks have caused the majority to quickly become addicted to the freedom of setting your own hours, challenging yourself to meet deadlines, and seeing some of the most beautiful natural and cultural sights in Canada, the United States, and beyond.
Getting On The Road?
Suppose U Drive has trucks designed to handle both short and long hauls to fit all of your transportation needs. Options include sleeper cabins, refrigerated cargo areas, lift gates, and more. Have a look at our inventory online, or give us a call and let us know what you’re looking for.